Mac, iPod sales boost Apple's profits

Apple’s fiscal fourth-quarter profits jumped 67% to cap a year that saw unprecedented momentum in its Macintosh computer business, continued demand for iPods and the successful launch of the iPhone.

For the three months that ended September 30, Apple said on Monday it earned $904-million, or $1,01 per share, compared with $542-million, or 62 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter.

Apple easily beat the expectations of analysts polled by Thomson Financial, who predicted earnings per share of 86 cents on sales of $6,07-billion.

Revenue totalled $6,22-billion, compared with $4,84-billion in the same quarter last year.

Apple’s stock price, which has more than doubled since January, rose by $3,94, or 2,3%, to close at $174,36. After the earnings report, shares climbed about $12, almost 7%, in extended trading.

Apple said it shipped a record 2,16-million Macs in the quarter, an increase of 34%, while it sold 10,2-million iPods, up 17%. The debut of a slate of new iPods in September helped accelerate sales and is expected to boost holiday revenues, Apple officials said.

The company has sold more than 120-million iPods since the product’s 2001 debut.

Yet the iPhone, a combination cellphone and media player, is already tracking better than the iPod, Apple’s chief operating officer, Tim Cook, told analysts in a conference call.

In the first full quarter of iPhone sales—a number many on Wall Street were waiting for—Apple said it sold 1,12-million units, bringing the cumulative total to 1,39-million since the product debuted on June 29.

“It took us over two years to achieve a comparable number for the iPod,” Cook said.
“So we’re thrilled here.”

Apple’s efforts to prevent customers from modifying, or “unlocking”, iPhones to work on networks other than Apple’s carrier partner in the United States, AT&T, also frustrated users—and sparked lawsuits.

Apple’s “guess” is that buyers of 250 000 of the 1,4-million iPhones sold so far intended to unlock them, Cook said.

In an apparent about-face that allayed developer grumblings, Apple announced last week it will open the device to third-party applications.

Despite the complaints, Apple came out shining.

For the full fiscal year, Apple earned a record $3,5-billion, up more than 75% from last year when it earned $1,99-billion. Yearly sales reached more than $24-billion, a 24% jump from fiscal 2006.

“We had a fantastic quarter and year,” said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s chief financial officer.

Apple’s fortunes have skyrocketed in recent years as its iPods became a cultural phenomenon. The portable players, which work with Macs as well as Microsoft Windows-based machines, have also drawn more people to Apple’s software and design, leading to what analysts call a “halo effect” on Mac sales.

After hovering for years with a 2% to 3% share of the PC market in the United States, Apple’s slice has now grown to 8%, according to the latest figures from market researcher Gartner. Now, many investors are betting Apple’s foray in the cellphone market will be another lucrative engine.

The iPhone “is a game-changing product”, said Stephen Coleman, chief investment officer at Daedalus Capital LLC. Based on income from the iPhone alone, he said, “I expect Apple’s earnings to continually grow materially at 50% a year, for the next three years.”

Apple reiterated on Monday its previous target of selling 10-million iPhones in 2008, helped by the launch of the iPhone in Europe next month, then in Asia next year.

For the current quarter, Apple said it expects earnings of about $1,42 per share on revenue of about $9,2-billion.

Analysts on average had been expecting earnings of $1,39 per share on sales of $8,58-billion.

“We’re looking forward to a strong December quarter as we enter the holiday season with Apple’s best products ever,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO.—Sapa-AP

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